Model killed herself in lockdown after Edinburgh University 'failings'

Model, 21, killed herself in lockdown while Edinburgh University bosses knew of her mental health struggles but did not tell her parents

  • Student and part time model Romily Ulvestad’s inquest was heard this month
  • Miss Ulvestad, 21, had struggled with her mental health and missed meetings
  • But her Edinburgh University did not alert her family of her problems
  • She was found dead at parents’ London home in April four days after birthday

A student killed herself in lockdown after a series of failings by the University of Edinburgh, who knew she was struggling with her mental health – but did not warn her parents.

Romily Ulvestad, 21, was found dead at her mother and father’s London home four days after her birthday in April last year.

Inner West London coroners court heard Miss Ulvestad – who was known as Romy by her friends – had been a part-time model.

Her inquest was told a number of university departments had known she was struggling with mental health issues and her work but had not warned her family.

The faculty admitted it had carried out its own internal review after her death which had identified gaps in support, including this missed chance to alert her parents.

A university spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The thoughts of the University are with the family and friends of Romily Ulvestad following her death.

‘To lose someone so young and full of promise is a tragedy and we have all been shocked and deeply saddened by what happened.

Romily Ulvestad, 21, was struggling at university and took her own life last year in London

‘The University undertook a review of the case of our own volition, as we felt it was absolutely the right thing to do in the circumstances. Our own internal investigations identified gaps in the support we provided for Romily, and we are deeply sorry for this. It is important that we acknowledge and accept when there have been failings, as there have been in this case.

‘We will learn from these and continue to implement the changes necessary to ensure that such gaps in the support systems we offer to our students do not occur in the future. Our review identified a range of improvements that should be made. A senior team has been appointed to oversee implementation of these recommendations, a number of which have already been put in place.

‘The welfare and safety of our students is of paramount importance, we continue to invest very significantly in support for mental health and wellbeing in particular, and we have a wide range of policies, procedures and services in place to ensure that they get the help required whenever they are facing challenges and periods of difficulty – be they pastoral or academic.

‘These policies and practices are under regular review, as they have been in this case, and we will always bring in changes when necessary to improve the service that we provide.’

Edinburgh University said its thoughts were with the family and friends of Romily Ulvestad

Inner West London Coroner’s Court, also known as Westminster Coroner’s Court in London

The Guardian reported that the inquest was told Miss Ulvestad had completed a successful first year at Edinburgh reading classics.

But problems started in her second and in December 2018 visited a doctor and asked to resit her exams.

She made two of the ‘special circumstances’ applications – which both referenced her mental health – as well as asking for coursework extensions.

The inquest was reported to have been told she missed her summer 2019 resits and did not attend a meeting with her personal tutor two months before she died.

Despite the university being unable to get hold of her, they did not escalate concerns about her wellbeing.

Miss Ulverstad’s mother Libby said: ‘By failing to let us know what was going on, they denied us the right to parent our child.

‘If I’d known what was going on with her, I would have tried to get her all the support she clearly desperately needed. But we will never get the opportunity to parent her again.

‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life wondering if they had behaved in a different way, whether my daughter’s life might have continued. Maybe not. We might not have changed it, but I would have liked to have been given the opportunity.’

The internal review by the university is said to have found ‘more could and should have been done’.

The coroner’s court – also known as Westminster Coroner’s Court – did not respond to a request for further information, including the inquest verdict. 

It said getting in touch with her emergency contacts without her permission was ‘problematic’ but the review said it should have been considered.

The report said: ‘Contacting a student’s emergency contact without their consent can be problematic.

‘However, it is the opinion of the team that the school should as a minimum have discussed contacting Romily’s emergency contact as a possible course of action in February and March 2020 given the seriousness of her situation.’

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